When Yoshitaka Shindo was a boy, he did not hear much from his family about his grandfather, Tadamichi Kuribayashi, commander of the Japanese troops who fought and died in the bloody Battle of Iwojima.

The battle, in which nearly 7,000 U.S. Marines and Navy sailors and almost 22,000 Japanese troops died, was etched in America's memory by an Associated Press photo of six servicemen raising the Stars and Stripes atop the small volcanic island's Mount Suribachi.

For many in Japan, however, it was long a tragic defeat best forgotten. "Human beings don't want to talk about what is most painful," Shindo, a conservative ruling party lawmaker and former member of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Cabinet, said in an interview. "As a child, I was told that my grandfather worked diligently for the sake of the country and that he was a very gentle person. But as for details such as what happened when, neither my grandmother or mother really spoke about that."